A World Health Organization advisory estimates that in one 60-minute session, hookah smokers are exposed to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke than that inhaled from a single cigarette. In addition, studies have shown that the level of toxic chemicals in hookah smoke is at least as high as in cigarettes, if not higher. Compared to smoke from a single cigarette, hookah smoke has been identified as containing:
ÖSignificantly higher levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and nickel
Ö35 times more tar
Ö15 times more carbon monoxide
The use of hookahs has been linked to lung, oral, esophageal, stomach and bladder cancer. It is also associated with heart disease and respiratory problems.
Furthermore, the harmful effects of carbon monoxide and carcinogens in mainstream hookah smoke are compounded by the presence of secondhand smoke for users, shop visitors and employees.
In addition to the health threats associated with the tobacco, the hookah may also pose a communicable disease threat. Sharing of a hookah mouthpiece increases the risk for communicable diseases such as the flu, meningitis and oral herpes.
These communicable diseases can be particularly problematic in colleges and universities where such diseases have the potential to propagate quickly.
It is my sincere hope that all county residents are fully informed of the risks they are taking the moment they step into a hookah bar.
Cynthia B. Morrow is commissioner of health for Onondaga County.
Waterpipe is as bad, or worse, than smoking cigarettes
In a time when health professionals work tirelessly to reduce the burden of disease and death caused by tobacco in our country, two SU football players bring a hookah bar to our community.
Your article highlighting this venture unfortunately gave little attention to health issues associated with hookah smoking.
Smoking from a hookah — or waterpipe — is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. Waterpipe smokers are exposed to nicotine, heavy metals, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing agents in the tobacco smoke.
A waterpipe smoker can be exposed to the amount of smoke equivalent to smoking 100 or more cigarettes (http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_interaction/tobreg/en/). Why? When smoking a waterpipe, the smoker typically inhales a larger volume of smoke.
Indeed, that is why a co-owner tells us, “you can inhale pretty much your entire lung capacity and you don’t feel it. And then you exhale and you have, pretty much, this enormous cloud.”
Also, a typical waterpipe session lasts much longer (i.e. 20-80 minutes), compared to the 5-7 minutes it takes to smoke a cigarette. Although smokers may share a session, smokers may take numerous hits from the hookah.
Hookah bars are also not regulated by the health department and so are not required by law to clean, sterilize or even replace mouthpieces. Waterpipe smokers who are sharing mouthpieces should be aware they are at risk for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis or herpes.
While their choice of business obviously shows a disregard for social responsibility, the owners should at least inform their customers on the premise of health risks associated with the product they are selling.